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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I LOVE holidays!  I love making the most of them through fun food, colorful decorations, and bringing a smile to my kids’ faces in any way I can. Mission accomplished this morning with balloons, heart pancakes, and a trail of chocolates leading my kids to a festive table.  I am a big believer that having traditions with our family gives children a sense of stability and security that will benefit them in life and bond our family with closeness.  That is one of my main goals in life–to have a family who loves to be around each other. What better time to have traditions than around holidays?  (This comes naturally to me, whereas playing legos with my boys doesn’t.  I try not to beat myself up on the things I don’t do well and overly emphasis the things I love to do, like holidays).  I often do balloons for Valentine’s day because I love balloons myself and really, don’t they just put a smile on anyones face? Sidenote:  Did you know that buying balloons at party city and asking them to put “hi float” inside for a little extra, they will last an ENTIRE week!  I bought these balloons Saturday night and they will be enjoyed all week.  Love that!

We did our “heart attack” last Monday for FHE, we each wrote something we loved about each family member and put them on the kitchen cabinets.  Cute decor, kind words, love all around. Got the idea from Shawni.  Her blog is one of my favorites for mothering inspiration and enjoying the journey.  She also has great photography. I don’t know her personally, but I wish I did.

I have LOVED all the Valentine’s ideas out there in blogland.  Found this idea over the weekend from a linky party at  Be Different…Act Normal.  To see more specifics on how to make these pancakes, click on over to Random thoughts of a Supermom for her step by step.

Above:  The baby is still asleep, but the big kids (though sorta groggy) are happy (success)!  Rewind to Sunday afternoon (below) as we were all finishing up our Valentine’s.  On Friday, we still didn’t know what we were doing.  My boys weren’t loving a lot of ideas I was showing them and I found out that our school we can’t have homemade food.  SO….when I showed them the sucker idea that I posted on The Idea Room last week via Eighteen25, they all got excited!

Notice above what the baby is eyeing…..

She wanted a fistful of suckers and I said no.  Can you believe my mean-ness? Love this shot;)

The finished Valentine’s.  Whew, it was time intensive to do 3 batches of this.  Below is the photoshop version, then I had the kids sign their names and put their classmates’ names, too.  The boys were excited about the idea, I hope it comes across well, because they want it to be “cool.”  I think the idea can be taken either way. I debated puting my biz name on them, but did it in the end.  Still wonder if I should have…but it is a creation of my biz, and we are new to the school, so I did.

Back to this morning, the baby woke up and quickly discovered the trail of candy.

And the big kids had fun showing her the balloons.

 After walking them to school, and quickly posting this, baby and I get to go to 3 Valentine’s parties today (during naptime) and I need to finish up my gift to my hubby.  After all, he is my true Valentine.  Our dinner tonight will be heart shaped pizza from Papa Murphy’s (I can’t do it all, my friend).  Hope you have a great day!

Fudge Lover’s Strawberry Truffle Cake~The perfect Valentine’s Treat!

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I wanted to share the most delicious recipe I got years ago from a friend. The Fudge Lover’s Strawberry Truffle Cake! Most of this is “on hand” ingredients such as Devils food cake mix and 2 bags of semi sweet chips/baking chocolate are the only items you may not have. I have made this every year for Valentine’s Day for the past 5 years or so. Just YUM!

Fudge Strawberry Truffle Cake

It’s really easy, you just have to plan ahead to let it cool and chill at 2 diff. stages.

First you bake the cake mix just like it says on the box and let it cool completely (ummm, made a big hole when I was testing the rediness).

Then you make the ganache with the whipping cream and semi sweet chocolate (you WILL sound extra fancy when you tell people you made ganache–say it ga-na-shh).

then cut up the cake….

plop half in a bowl…

…and mix til it crumbles….add the other half….then dump on the ganache…

mix more and it will be fudge-like…who doesn’t like fudge-like, I ask?

…dump strawberries…

…fold in strawberries…

Hopefully you have a springform pan, line it with waxed paper (promise, it does help later)

…plop in your mixture and smooth it out…you then stick it in the freezer for 45 minutes to chill/harden.

…lick the spoon…

After 45 minutes, plop it on a fancy plate…

…remove that springform edge…

…and peel off the wax paper for a nice smooth top…

See, smooth.

Dump the reserved ganache (did I tell you to reserve some above?)

…and spread it list frosting…

The recipe says to do the edge, but I like to see the strawberries on the edge, so I don’t do the edge (plus, it is a pain to try to not get it on that fancified plate).

Top with strawberries

Lick the bowl and spoon again…

Then melt some white chocolate chips, place in a ziploc bag, snip the end and drizzle it all over the cake and voila! You. are. fancy.

Fudge Lover’s Strawberry Truffle Cake Recipe:

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® chocolate fudge or Devil’s food cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
Ganache Filling and Topping
2 packages (8 oz each) semisweet baking chocolate (or 2 full bags semi sweet chips), finely chopped
1 1/3 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup butter (do not use margarine)
2 cups cut-up fresh strawberries
6 fresh strawberries, cut in half lengthwise through stem
1/4 cup white vanilla baking chips
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil


Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom only of 13×9-inch pan with shortening or cooking spray. Make cake mix as directed on box, using water, oil and eggs.
  1. Bake the cake following the box instructions in a 13×9-inch pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, in large bowl, place chopped chocolate; set aside. In 2-quart saucepan, heat whipping cream and butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and mixture comes to a boil. Pour cream mixture over chocolate; stir until smooth.
  3. Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with waxed paper round. Cut cake into 1-inch cubes. In large bowl, beat half of the cake cubes on low speed until cake is crumbly. Add remaining cake cubes and 1 3/4 cups of the ganache (reserve remaining ganache for topping). Beat on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed until well combined (mixture will look like fudge). Fold in 2 cups cut-up strawberries. Spoon mixture into springform pan; smooth top. Cover with plastic wrap; freeze 45 minutes or until firm enough to unmold.
  4. Run knife around side of pan to loosen cake. Place serving plate upside down on pan; turn pan and plate over. Frost side and top of cake with reserved ganache. Arrange strawberry halves on top of cake.
  5. In small microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips and 1/2 teaspoon oil uncovered on High 45 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds, until melted. Place in small resealable food-storage plastic bag; cut off tiny corner of bag. Drizzle over top of cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Cake is best served the same day.

My 4 kiddos

We did a very mini Valentines shoot the other day for my post on The Idea Room.  My oldest daughter is always a very willing participant (LOVE her dance moves) but my boys are another story.  They are over all my tricks to get them to smile…I have to be more creative.  My baby was stuck on a stool in the kitchen, love her smile here.  I love them and I love to capture them when they let me.  e took enough to fill a BINGO card.  Go check it out over there.

I am working on a post for step by step instructions on the yummiest and prettiest Valentine’s cake. Simple and basic ingredients include Devils food cake mix, 2 bags semi sweet choco chips, whipping cream, white choco chips and fresh strawberries. Everything else you’ll have on hand (eggs, oil, butter). Check back tomorrow for this recipe.

Happy Valentines Day

I meant to post this image to the I heart faces contest as their theme this week was “kiss.” But I forgot, so here it is…..I love this kissing shot:)

This engagement shoot was taken last summer and I loved so many images from it. To see more click here and here. I photographed this couple in two parts, evening and early morning.